Very early birds

Decorative prints
Very Early Birds

Some of the earliest prints of birds, from books responding to the great interest in natural history stimulated by the Reformation (which licensed greater curiosity about the world), the invention of the printing press and the beginnings of a serious study of what we know as science, came together to change the intellectual life of Europe in the 1500s and 1600s.


Please click on the images below to see enlargements of full prints.


Nicolas Robert (18 April 1614 – 25 March 1685) was a French miniaturist and engraver. He was the designated miniature painter to King Louis XIV. He is particularly known for his scientific botanic illustration but in this print he illustrates birds. The main subjects are cassowaries, known at that time from New Guinea, but the smaller birds in the background are an American species. It is one of the earliest illustrations of cassowaries.  Excellent condition, hand colour possibly original. $A 300.


BW 016 s

BW 016 Robert; Cassowaries.  $A 300




Conrad Gessner (1516 –1565) was a Swiss naturalist and bibliographer. His five-volume Historiae animalium  [Stories of the animals] (1551–1558), is considered the beginning of modern zoology. Incidentally, he was the first person to describe the pencil, invented shortly before his death.
The images are wood cuts and the name of each bird is given in several languages. These are pages of a book and printed on both sides. Often there is some bleed-through of the image on the reverse. The pages are 380 x 252 mm. They are in good condition considering their age, but show signs of use.
They are often reproduced, but original pages such as offered here do not often come onto the market.



ZB 007s

ZB 007 Gessner.  Crane $A 300

ZB 010 s

ZB 010 Gessner Woodpecker   $A 250

ZB 011 s

ZB 011 Gessner Capercailye (Capercailzie).  $A 300





ZB 009 s

ZB 009 Gessner Spoonbill.  $A 250

ZB 008 s

ZB 008 Gessner Avocet. $A 300

ZB 018 s Gesner two Buntings

ZB 018 Gessner Two Buntings.  $A 150


Adriaen Collaert (ca.1560–1618) was a Flemish artist and engraver. He worked for Philip Galle (his father in law) and other prominent printmakers including Gerard de Jode. Later he also published in his own name, including Avium vivae icones [Pictures of birds drawn from life] in 1610, from which these plates come. Some of the images seem to be derived from Gessner’s – see for instance the spoonbill and avocet above.  Each plate is 131 x 191 mm. They are in original hand–colour and in excellent condition. $A 350 each



ZB 013  s Collaert Peacock & goose

ZB 013 Collaert Peacock & goose.  $A 350

ZB 012 s Collaert spoonbill & avocet

ZB 012 Collaert Spoonbill & Avocet.  $A 350

ZB 016 s Collaert heron & snipe

ZB 016 Collaert Heron & Snipe.   $A 350



ZB 015 s Collaert swans

ZB 015 Collaert Swans.   $A 350

ZB 017 s  Collaert Rare water bird & great crested grebe

ZB 017 Collaert “Rare water bird” & Great Crested Grebe.  $A 350

ZB 014 s Collaert jacana & turma duck

ZB 014 Collaert Jacana & Turma Duck.  $A 300


ZB 019 s Collaert Flesh eating bird (Cassowary) & two passerines

ZB 019 Collaert “Flesh-eating bird” (Cassowary) & two passerines.  $A 350